Arts & Culture | Mark Morganelli’s Jazz Forum Reopens In Westchester

Mark Morganelli’s Jazz Forum Reopens In Westchester

Morganelli’s ability to bring in great acts is because he is a musician — a trumpet player (and flugelhorn player, for the picky) — and he can boast of a lifetime of being connected to the performance of jazz in New York.

For a jazz aficionado, any venue that offers jazz is great, but what makes a jazz club a marquee jazz club is often the owner.

An experienced jazz promoter, Mark Morganelli has what it takes to create a marquee club. And he did.

Jazz Forum is Morganelli’s creation and is located in Tarrytown, which is close enough to New York City and easily accessible. The club’s website describes itself as, “...the only dedicated jazz club in Westchester County. This 90-seat, weekend-only live music venue is an intimate listening room with a warm and welcoming mood, affordable ticket prices and clear sightlines from all seats.” And the praise of customer reviews testify to this.

The cache that Jazz Forum has for Westchester residents — indeed everyone within earshot — is that you can catch major jazz personalities that perform here, without having to make the trip to New York City. To wit, Jazz Forum attracts the same sort of talent that marquee clubs in the city, such as Blue Note and Birdland, routinely do.

Morganelli’s ability to bring in great acts is because he is a musician — a trumpet player (and flugelhorn player, for the picky) — and he can boast of a lifetime of being connected to the performance of jazz in New York.

Morganelli’s connection with jazz goes back to 1979 and the original avatar of Jazz Forum. The club was located in Manhattan, at 50 Coopers Square (Broadway and Bleeker) in a 5000 sq ft space. 

The club featured the most sought after acts including names such as Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis, Woody Shaw, Red Rodney, Carmen McRae, Barry Harris, Philly Joe Jones and Max Roach.

Financial troubles visited him and Morganelli told Destinations Of New York State that after he missed one rent payment one month, he was asked to quit. He recalled that Wynton Marsalis and Art Blakey generously offered to help and pledged three months' rent so he could keep his club going.

But it was too late and he had to shut down, only four years later, in 1983.

His gigs managing jazz included stints at the Village Gate and Birdland, where he was music coordinator for five years and the establishment of the Jazz Forum Arts, a not for profit organization to promote jazz and with it, the Riverside Park Arts Festival.

A significant part of Morganelli’s career was the “Jazz at the Music Hall” series that he started in Tarrytown, after he and his family moved to Westchester.

In its 22 year run, Jazz at the Music Hall saw 150 shows.

Performers, per the website, featured Ahmad Jamal, Billy Taylor, Harry & “Sweets” Edison, James Moody, Betty Carter, Gerry Mulligan, Herbie Mann, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck, Chuck Mangione, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, Savion Glover, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Dr. John, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Pat Metheny, Hugh Masekela and the Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Duke Ellington and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestras.

In 2017, with months of effort, acquiring permissions and permits, he and his wife Ellen Prior became the proud promoters of the current avatar of Jazz Forum, the 90-seater club on Dixon Street in Tarrytown.

The club was inaugurated with a performance by Roy Hargrove and became a sought after stop in Westchester.

And the pandemic shut everything down. It was 446 days before they could open again. And Labour Day 2021 was the watershed moment for the reopening of Jazz Forum — to an enthusiastic response.

Jazz Forum is supported by a presenting sponsor — there is one such example of this, “Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola” at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan — and also by their patrons and supporters. The club is welcoming, inclusive and everything is reasonably priced. 

And the music, given Morganelli’s background, is jazz. We asked him how bebop was jazz these days. 

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool bebopper,” Morganelli replied, “eighty percent of the acts in the club are straight-ahead and bebop.”

Mark Morganelli's other musical interest is Brazilian music and Brazilian acts feature every week in the club. He has performed on an album called “Brasil” and performs regularly.

HIs other passion he pursues along with Ellen Prior, is Italian renaissance art. He is off to Italy for this, very soon.

“I would love for someone to take over the running of the club, while I am gallivanting,” Morganelli said, maybe a tad wistfully.


The listing for Jazz Forum in the New York State Tourism Guide is here. Search for “Jazz Forum” to check for any event listings in the club.

Now, listen to Morganelli play “Summertime”, with jazz greats Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Jimmy Cobb. 


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In this article:   Upstate New York | jazz | jazz forum | mark morganelli | ellen prior | weschester |
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